Pfffffuuuuittttt. The air ran out. “Tedeschi?” Asks a Sicilian car mechanic in Milazzo. She smiles broadly. The World Cup is still fresh in our memory. He just broke a sharp stone wedge that got stuck in our tire with a pair of pliers. “Yes, we are Germany.” – “Germany kap-puud! Kap-puud tires! ” He rejoices. The replacement should cost 200 euros. First, we go to the car rental company. A flat tire? “Iss is disfellowshipped,” says the man at the counter. We are Gianni, our cousin in Barcelona. Now it’s bursting at the seams: “How can you go there? Now you are registered with a broken tire car rental company. How can you be so stupid? Why don’t you call me sooner ?! “
Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to rent a small bungalow in the middle of an olive grove in Campogrande. Furnished more than modestly, but quite picturesquely situated, with an uninterrupted view of the Mediterranean Sea. Lemons, peaches, apples, oranges – anything your heart desires. “Prendete, prendete,” said our owner. “You can take some.” At 150 euros a week, this accommodation is also good value. However: surrounded by gravel roads. On previous trips to this area, we always wondered about the “Gommistas” signs on almost every street corner. There are as many “rubber people” on this coast as there are hairdressers and bakers in Berlin. So now we had to look for one of these tire patchers too.
There are no price lists on the display – for the most part
We also need other support. Somehow we are still doing everything wrong in this country that sometimes seems formally only part of Italy, sometimes my wife’s foreign homeland. At our butcher’s shop, the tasty “salsiccia” – farmer’s sausage with fennel and small spices – has a different price with every purchase. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Usually more. There are no price lists on the display anyway.
Our Italian relatives come from Tripi, a nice mountain village. There is no supermarket here, no hotel – but a few years ago they discovered an ancient burial ground in the village thanks to EU funding. For decades, farmers wondered about the regularly hewn stones that still appeared on the surface of their fields. Now they know: the ancient city lies down there somewhere.
In Tripi. a cemetery from the Greek times was unearthed
Salvaged grave items – golden diadems or terracotta vases – from Abacena, as the excavation site is called, are on display due to the lack of a museum at the Tripi School. Carmelo Mayor Giuseppe Sottile, who can imagine wonderful things here, holds the key to the fenced excavation site: “If we Sicilians were entrepreneurial, we would have been European California a long time ago.” The first signs are unclear: the commune of Tripis has very simple holiday apartments that are rented out by workers. Of course, they even prefer to offer their own housing.
From here, about twenty minutes by car to the sea, and more specifically to the beach Portorosa, a fenced marina on the coast, guarded by an armed patrol. A Hilton hotel with 263 beds is being built here. For the few years. Nobody doubts that the bed lock will be completed one day.
Fishing boats and hobbyist sailors sail the Patti Bay
The scenery is calm. Hobbyist sailors and fishing boats sail the turquoise Patti Bay, while the Aeolian and Aeolian Islands loom to the west. On a beach near Portorosa, there is a slim man: Gaetano Mendoria, 76 years old, perceived appearance: 56. Occupation: fisherman. Mendoria hails from Tonnarella, a village in the Furnari Commune. He constantly rummages in his breast pocket, which has a long needle with a thick thread. This needle was with him all his life. And he still uses it to fix the nets when they bring him in, because the nets got tangled again somewhere in the sea. “Tomorrow will be sirocco,” he says after looking up to the sky. His drawing of a tuna factory on the Tindari rock remains in the sand.
Older Sicilians are often very helpful, we noticed when an old Fiat dealer helped us fit our spare tire on the road right in front of Furnari. “Master, what have you got?” – “Signora, Signore, please! Where do you think? Who do you think I am?”
The locations of the best wells are kept like a secret
The next day it was bitterly cold. Gaeton Mendoria was wrong. There was no sirocco, or even a warm breeze, in this coastal zone across the Strait of Messina. It is bordered by the foothills of the densely forested and gentle Nebrodian mountain range and the Peloritan Mountains. Due to its beauty and water clarity, the coast is probably one of the most beautiful in Sicily. The locals torment their Vespas, Topolino and pandas for miles up the hills to fill one or two five-liter canisters with fresh spring water for lunch and take them home. The best places are kept like a secret.
On one side of Patti Bay is Milazzo, a harbor cape with hotels, restaurants, a castle, camping, pedestrian area, Vespas rattling along the waterfront and a busy quay – from here ferries depart to the Aeolian Islands excluded. Two years ago we returned to this port from the island of Vulcano – smelling of rotten eggs like the princes of darkness themselves. It took several full baths to rinse out the vapors that had settled in our pores during a long bath in the sulfur baths of this third largest Aeolian island. The Aeolian Islands are – as far as people will allow – the mythological seat of the wind god Aeolus, who now allows the Strombolis volcano to smoke, and the fine white pumice on the beaches of Patti Bay floods. In the 1960s it was in every kitchen, today hardly anyone knows what to do with it.
In serious emergencies, only the Black Madonna of Tindari can help
On the other side of the bay is the Tindari pilgrimage site, whose black Madonna protects our paradise. The church stands on a throne like a needle of rock. The Greeks and Romans apparently enjoyed a beautiful view from here: ancient Tyndaris is right next to the pilgrimage church. The massive systems have stood the test of time well. You can still admire the mighty walls and the Roman basilica there. In summer, performances and concerts take place in the amphitheater.
The Black Madonna is more than a saint here, she is a helper in all situations. Because those who are suspicious of Sicilian doctors and cannot afford to seek rescue from supposedly better doctors in northern Italy have no choice but to worship the Black Madonna. A white lagoon lies at your feet Oliveri – the language of land that stretches one kilometer out into the sea.
Three car repair shops agree: it will be expensive
The return of the car is approaching at the end of the holidays. With the spare wheel replaced and the tire still broken in the trunk, we were unable to drive to the rental shop at Catania airport. We remembered the patcher from Milazzo. We liked the three garages next to each other remembered during the trip to the port. For tactical reasons, my wife rolled the tire into the “Gommisty zone” – lonely, helpless, technically incapable, physically overwhelmed. Despite the trick, the three tire patchers did not get stumbled and agreed: the tires could no longer be saved, and a price of 200 euros could certainly be expected.
Negotiating skills are always relative
One final try: on a country road towards Messina, just beyond the Falcone motorway exit, there are piles of tires from another Gommista. The young man who greets us with an open smile is studying in Spain. A punctured tire, a cracked stone in a tube? “No problem, it’s just a rental car – come back in an hour. He earns 15 euros. ” We were relieved to pack our things and called Cousin Gianni to pick us up to report on our negotiating skills. He’s not very excited. He sighs and says, “You’ll never learn – that’s five euros too expensive.”